What is George Clooney doing in this labyrinth? Or how Diederik Peeters enjoys putting everyone on the wrong track (‘Red herring’)

Boys and their toys, part two. Having witnessed Benjamin Verdonck turn chaos into poetry (review here), I didn’t want to miss Red herring by another peculiar Einzelgänger, Belgian performer Diederik Peeters. There was another reason too: for his decor he called upon promising visual artist-duo Sarah & Charles. Presented recently by Beursschouwburg (Brussels) and  kc nOna (Mechelen) Red herring proved to be an odd trip: a galant, be it awkward performer inviting you to a nice place that turns out to be a maddening labyrinth.

He asks you to close your eyes for a moment. Because it will make the experience even better. And of course, when you open them, nothing spectacular has happened. And then he starts fooling around with small objects on a table, as if he were providing the sounds for a radio play. While you’re looking at that, you think: he’d better asked me to close my eyes now. Or this scene: he explains the meaning of ‘red herring’: a false clue. And he tells you not to go and look for one in this performance, because there isn’t any. And of course you wonder, while watching Red herring (performance in English): has he been putting me on the wrong track or not?

Nothing is what it appears to be, in Red herring. Even that voice. Because some of the words Diederik Peeters utters, were prerecorded. So sometimes when he is saying something, he is in fact saying nothing at all.
One thing you can’t reproach Peeters is that he hasn’t put any effort in making Red herring (as a matter of fact: you cán, but more on that later).
Throughout this performance you feel the meticulous preparation: that decor (a door and a couple of  carpet rolls), the lighting, the sound (almost an extra ‘actor’ in this performance), the special effects, and Peeters himself, as some sort of Buster Keaton carrying doors and playing with all his other props. All these elements are used to purvey that sense of: nothing is what it appears to be, and what at first seems to be a story, in fact isn’t a story at all.

Peeters is rather fond of a sense of disorientation and he succeeds in putting that across to his audience. After a while you really don’t know where Peeters is leading you. Is this a detective story? Where has this George Clooney character gone to? But you don’t care, because Red herring is clever, funny and absurd. 
Unfortunately you do feel though that – timing is everything for a comedian – sometimes the performance is dragging a bit.
But what bothered me most was that although I admired all the work that was put into all the technical details of this performance, more work could have been put into the ‘story’ or the ‘contents’ of Red herring. You do expect something more than somebody just cleverly confusing you in every possible way. Strangely enough I left the theater feeling rather unsatisfied. As if somebody had given me a beautiful looking gift, but upon opening the box it turned out to be empty.

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